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Fentanyl and Methamphetamine Overdose Claims Life of Washington Police Officer: Injured Workers in the News, #98

While working, a Police Officer- while at his precinct- collapsed and died from fentanyl and meth poisoning.  In the news reports, it is reported that the incident may not have been by accident.  According to the Dailymail, “Police in Vancouver, Washington, investigated Kelly’s death and concluded that it was ‘more likely than not caused by an intentional act and not an incidental workplace exposure,’”

This article will discuss the issue within the framework of California Workers’ Compensation Law with respect to this workplace death  and whether it was work-related.

If Someone Dies At the Workplace, Is It Automatically Considered As A Work-Related Death?

No.  Injuries in the workplace must be AOE/COE- arising out of employment and in the course and scope of employment.  While a death may occur during the course and scope of employment, i.e. while at the place of employment, there may be uncertainty as to whether it was caused by work.  In this instance, illicit drug use has been implicated as to the cause of death.

What Is The Standard For Proving a Death Is Work-Related?

The Cailfornia Supreme Court in  South Coast Framing, Inc. v. Workers’ Comp. Appeals Bd. (2015) 61 Cal.4th 291 [188 Cal.Rptr.3d 46, 349 P.3d 141], noted that “[w]e have recognized the contributing cause standard …Under this test, if the injury can be seen to have followed as a natural incident of the work and to have been contemplated by a reasonable person familiar with the whole situation as a result of the exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment, then it arises “out of” the employment. But it excludes an injury which cannot fairly be traced to the employment as a contributing proximate cause and which comes from a hazard to which the workman would be equally exposed apart from the employment.’””

In the instant matter, it is possible that an industrial contributing cause could be found.  It is possible that, as a law enforcement officer, there may be presumptions that could apply and assist in proving an industrial injury.   Thus,  this fact pattern is worthy of exploring  whether there was a valid industrial death claim.  Thus,  despite the allegation of illicit drug use and a statement from the department concerning it, there still may be a way of proving it as work-related.  For instance, the officer may have been suffering from an industrial orthopedic injury and decided to self-medicate by using an illegal drug.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 30 years. Contact us today for more information.

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